N.C. 12: Uncertain future in an era of rising seas

By on March 4, 2012

The breach at Pea Island. (USFWS)

By Catherine Kozak
Coastal Review Online

Traveling along the edge of the continent on a two-lane highway built atop a skinny strand of shifting sand just inches above two mighty bodies of water might sound adventuresome in travel guides.

The adventure can turn hazardous on a nasty day in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Sand swirls in angry gusts across the road, vast pools of water — from sky, ocean, sound or all of the above — force vehicles to crawl, turn around or stall. Dunes appear to transform into living things, buffeting a pitiful strip of asphalt from monstrous waves.

But for residents of the Outer Banks, driving on the 60 miles of N.C. 12 on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands is an economic necessity and a transportation challenge. Tourism brought $834 million into Dare County in 2010, and most islanders make their living from tourist-related business.

Two severe cuts in the road in and on the south edge of the refuge inflicted by Hurricane Irene in August were the most recent illustration of the corridor’s vulnerability to beach erosion and storm damage, renewing questions about the futility of fixing such a vulnerable highway, especially in an era of a rapidly rising sea.

“The cost of maintaining Pea Island has been incredibly expensive,” said Stan Riggs, a geology professor at East Carolina University. “If the public knew how much has been spent just to hold that road, I think they’d croak.”

Riggs has spent his professional life researching the natural dynamics of the N.C. coast. Few people know more about the coast’s geology. Riggs has written numerous books on coastal geology, including The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast. The recently published book argues that the present development and management policies for the coast’s changing barrier island are in direct conflict with their natural dynamics.

Riggs agrees that a transportation route for Hatteras Island is a necessity. But sea level rise is expected to accelerate in the future because of a changing climate, he says. That means only worse problems for N.C. 12, Riggs noted. It’s time, he said, for people to get creative.

“We need a whole new paradigm,” he said.

How high will she rise

Oceans rise in a warming climate. Water expands as it heats up, and melting glaciers add to the oceans’ volume.

That much scientists know. How high the sea might rise in the future or how quickly are still open to debate. That will depend largely on how much of the Arctic ice cap melts and how quickly.

Because of its gently sloping coastline, North Carolina is one of the most vulnerable states on the East Coast to sea-level rise, scientists say. Most current scientific estimates put the Atlantic Ocean along our shores about 3 feet higher than it is now by 2100. That’s about double the historic rate of sea-level rise.

A panel of scientific experts that advises the state’s Coastal Resources Commission came to a similar conclusion last year in its original draft report on future sea-level rise. It concluded that the rise would be about 39 inches by 2100. Depending on how much or how little is done to address climate change, the rate could potentially be as low as 18 inches per 100 years, or as high as 55 inches.

A follow-up draft was watered down significantly after intense lobbying by development interests. The commission is awaiting a response from its scientific panel before deciding on a final report.

As policymakers ponder, the ocean continues its inexorable rise, putting that thin ribbon of asphalt known as N.C. 12 in greater jeopardy and its future in greater question.

“We’re not opposed to doing something out there,” Riggs said. “Our point is, we know what the science is.”

Along comes Irene

At one breach in Pea Island, about six miles south of Oregon Inlet, Hurricane Irene cut about 150 feet from the road, channeling surging water from ocean to sound. Further south at Mirlo Beach, she destroyed whole sections of roadbed with a surging tide.

Riggs has long predicted that those areas, especially at Mirlo, could become new inlets, but Irene was a weak hurricane. Even weak storms, scientist warn, can have catastrophic effects as the oceans warm and rise.

“It was all on the backside, and those inlets blew out, not in,” Riggs said. “And all that destruction was because the water couldn’t get out.”

A temporary Bridge under construction across the new inlet. (NCDOT)

With the blessing of Gov. Bev Perdue, the N.C. Department of Transportation went into high gear to get the road reopened to traffic. Emergency ferries transported supply vehicles, utility trucks and, eventually, some of stranded residents back and forth between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe.

Within weeks, a temporary, $2.6 million steel truss bridge was installed over the breach in Pea Island, and road workers repaired the underbed and repaved N.C. 12 at Mirlo Beach. The highway reopened Oct. 5, but DOT already has had to reinforce the new inlet’s south shore with rock and metal sheet piling to stem erosion that could have undermined the bridge.

Long-term solutions at the north end at Mirlo, where erosion is as much as 15 feet a year, include building a bridge within the easement and building a bridge that extends into the Pamlico Sound. At the Pea Island inlet, options are to build a new road or bridge west of the existing road, or build a permanent bridge where the road now stands.

Permanent fixes proposed by DOT at both sites initially included beach nourishment, either by itself or combined with bridging, But after a December meeting of state and federal agency representatives, DOT decided it was not a viable option because offshore sand sources were inadequate, it was too costly and permits would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.

At the suggestion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the refuge, DOT agreed at the December meeting to look into the feasibility of a longer, 7-mile bridge that would start north of the Pea Island breach, curve out into Pamlico Sound and tie-in at Rodanthe.

Public comment on the proposals closed in January, and DOT is expected to make a recommendation on an alternative within weeks.

Maintaining the road

Whatever the choice, DOT remains committed to keeping the coastal thoroughfare open.

“N.C. 12 is just like any of our highways that has its own challenges,” said Victor Barbour, DOT’s technical services administrator. “But I do think from an overall perspective, we have some roads in the mountains that cost as much or more as N.C. 12 to maintain.”

Mirlo Beach has been a chronic trouble spot. (NCDOT)

But Barbour agreed that maintenance of N.C. 12 is more expensive than an average road. Over the last 10 years, he said, DOT has spent $100 million maintaining 120 miles of N.C. 12 stretching from Corolla to Ocracoke. Although the cost has not been broken out per mile, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of work is concentrated south of Oregon Inlet. So far, Barbour said, Hurricane Irene damage has cost $12 million, much of it paid by federal emergency funds.

According to information in the final environmental impact statement for replacing the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet, DOT spent about $5.5 million to restore N.C. 12 after storms between August 1999 and October 2007. Of that, about $3.9 million was spent within the Pea Island refuge at three “hot spots, ” including at ‘S’ Curves, renowned as a premier East Coast surfing spot. Most of the costs were related to Hurricanes Dennis, Bonnie and Floyd in 1999 ($1.7 million) and Hurricane Isabel in 2003 ($1.2 million). Over that period, there were six hurricanes, one tropical storm and 13 nor’easters that required clean-ups.

Pea Island, the Bonner Bridge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has some of the most pristine beaches on the Outer Banks. Not only do residents love to go there, it attracts about 3 million visitors per year. But it’s not a substantial land— just 13 miles long, the refuge is at its widest only one mile east to west. At its narrowest, it is just a quarter mile across.

In the old days, the ebb and flow of the tide was unrestricted. Now, Riggs said, “the whole system is in danger of being blown out.”

Environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the refuge, favored a 17.5-mile bridge to replace the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet that would have bypassed Pea Island and its troublesome hot spots. DOT took the proposal off the table because of its high up-front cost and access issues. Construction of the new bridge just west of the existing one is scheduled to begin in early 2013.

Dennis Stewart, a refuge biologist who is a member of a N.C. 12 coastal scientist panel that has advised DOT, said that Fish and Wildlife is working cooperatively with DOT to find mutually acceptable fixes to N.C. 12. Although Mirlo is mostly outside of the refuge, the hot spot area stretches from ‘S-Curves’ on the south end of the refuge into Rodanthe.

Stewart said he has seen Pea Island narrow over the years. When he first started in 1994, N.C. 12 was located east of a ranger’s building, a 40-vehicle parking lot was east of the highway and a double dune line was east of the lot. All that’s gone now, he said.

The water that came rushing back toward the sound shoreline when Irene passed turned out to be a powerful punch at a weak spot.

“It was almost like a tsunami,” Stewart said. “Hurricane Irene totally convinced me that it’s a fragile system.”

As a coastal engineer with North Carolina Sea Grant, Spencer Rogers — who is also a member of the N.C. 12 coastal panel — said that despite the overall success of road relocation in the past, Fish and Wildlife will no longer permit that remedy. Another challenge to maintaining the corridor in the future, he said, is the near-impossibility of fixing the road within the 100-foot state right of way, as required by the refuge.

Andrew Coburn, associate director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, said that it all boils down to allocation of sparse resources

“If there’s an unlimited amount of sand and an unlimited amount of money, absolutely you can keep a road open there,” he said. “If you had unlimited resources, you probably wouldn’t have had a breach. But you’d have to deal with the potential environmental impacts of what you did to maintain that road.

“It’s tough,” Coburn said. “It’s almost an impossible situation to be in.”

Riggs, convinced that there will be little other option in the not -too-distant future, supports use of high-tech ferries – an idea that is anathema to Dare County and one DOT says would be impractical — combined with things like water taxis or float planes that have been used successfully in other coastal regions.

“Right now, we’ve survived just out of sheer luck,” Riggs said “The next big storm is going to be a catastrophe.”

This story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. The Voice is partnering with the federation to provide readers with coverage of environmental issues. You can read other stories about the N.C. coast at www.nccoast.org.

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March 15, 2012 4:01 pm

I’ll break my self imposed silence to say that I completely agree with your last post. A happy ending!!


March 15, 2012 2:41 pm

I’m not trying to be argumentative. I was enjoying our exchange until the post I responded to last, which struck me as avoiding the substance in favor of word games. On the substance, I’ll sum up by agreeing with you that it would be irresponsible for government officials to follow every proclamation about climate and sea level change without asking questions or considering the uncertainty inherent in any forward-looking projection. I will add that it would be even more irresponsible for government officials to make decisions about the use of our tax dollars without taking into account that we are currently in a cycle of rising sea levels and that a whole lot of very smart people predict a continuation or even an acceleration of that trend. Question these scientists? Yes. Take everything they say as unchallengeable and inevitable? No. Dismiss what they say because some predictions have been overstated or incorrect in the past? Definitely not.


March 15, 2012 11:02 am

This is becoming argument for the sake of argument, so this will be my final comment. First – I did not include Greenland because, clearly, ice melting on a land mass has the potential to impact ocean levels. Any sensible commentary on Arctic ice distinguishes between ocean borne and land borne ice, as did mine. That’s why I specifically referred to ice that is floating. Not sure why your initial comprehension of that changed. Second – once again you are putting words in my mouth. Nowhere have I said that ocean levels have not risen. There have been ocean level increases and decreases for millions of years. The question now is, during this phase, will they continue to rise, and if so, at what rate. If you are comfortable with government taking action that will seriously impact people’s lives and livelihoods, based upon an unquestioning belief in the predictions of a scientific community that has been so demonstrably wrong on many occasions, that is your choice. In my view, any responsible citizen should press government to rigorously audit the credibility of those making these predictions rather than going along with the herd.


March 15, 2012 9:37 am

Really, Nick, instead of playing semantic games with what I said or didn’t say about what your comment did or didn’t include, why don’t you just explain for yourself what you meant. After all, it was your statement, not mine. There are only two possibilities. The first is that your reference to the Arctic did include Greenland, in which case your statement that “if it all melted it would make no difference to sea levels” is false. The second is that your reference to the Arctic overlooked Greenland, in which case your larger point that sea levels aren’t currently rising is still disproved. So which one is it?


March 14, 2012 5:49 pm

In your post dated March 9 (which came after my comments you refer to above) you said…… “This doesn’t even consider Greenland, which your comments haven’t addressed”. Indeed they didn’t…….you understood that on March 9, but apparently not now.


March 14, 2012 10:19 am

Your initial comment said “Arctic ice is largely floating – if it all melted it would make no difference to sea levels.” Greenland is in the Arctic and it’s ice melt is a major contributor to the current rise in sea levels. So, no, I don’t think there’s anything I need to qualify. If anything needs to be qualified in this respect, it would be your statement about “no difference to sea levels.”


March 14, 2012 12:10 am

Dean, Glad you clarified your initial comments ref Antarctic ice increases being debunked. The qualifiers you have now added following this discussion make your observations more accurate. By the way, nowhere have I suggested that Greenland ice is floating as you state in your last post. Perhaps you would like to qualify that comment also?


March 13, 2012 10:37 am

I agreed that a couple of scientists described growth in the Antarctic ice mass over a 30-50 year period largely covering the latter part of the 20th century. My reference to these claims being debunked was referring to findings that these were attributable to temporary precipitation patterns and not longer term trends. Regardless, none of these studies establish definitively that Antarctic ice is currently growing. NASA’s observations indicate that Antarctica has been losing 24 cubic miles of ice per year since 2002, which is a more recent period than either of the studies that you mention. An overly aggressive prediction by a NASA scientist in 1971, mentioned in your earlier comment, says nothing about the reliability of current satellite observations that report existing data and do not purport to predict the future. Similarly, the more recent New Scientist article that I linked in my earlier comment places the current rate of Antarctic ice melt at 200 gigatonnes per year. This same article states that Greenland is losing 300 gigatonnes per year, which is above sea level and not floating as suggested in your earlier comment.

I am heartened that you are not suggesting that there is nothing to worry about, because some of your earlier comments (not to mention those of some other posters here) leave that impression. I similarly am not convinced of the inevitability — or even the probability — of cataclysmic sea level rises in the 20 foot range. Remember, though, that the article we are discussing is not about long-term global warming, but rather about the very short term issue of reconstructing a ribbon of asphalt on an extremely vulnerable lump of sand. Even a small rise in sea levels can increase erosion rates and pose heightened hazards for defenses such as man-made dunes. It doesn’t take much at all to turn mild storms into bad ones and bad storms into disasters, as recent experience in the “S-curve area” has taught us. Any possibility of adverse climate trends, even possibilities that are not completely certain or whose magnitude can’t be precisely predicted, should be considered by the planners who must decide the future design of NC-12.


March 12, 2012 6:03 pm

I didn’t suggest there is nothing to worry about. I responded to your comment that claims of increases in Antarctic ice have been “completely debunked”. In your latest post you seem to agree that Antarctic ice has indeed increased. Whether that will reverse, and at what rate, is now the subject of predictions by the same people who failed to anticipate the increase. The broader climate science community threw the entire Himalayan region into a panic at the prospect of the glaciers, on which 500 million people rely for water, would be gone in 35 years. They were completely wrong. Claims of 20 foot ocean rises have been retracted as nonsense. There are other examples. That’s why, when I read the latest round of predictions from a community that has been so wrong before, I do so with a skeptical eye.

Prince of Peeps

March 12, 2012 4:17 pm

The unfortunate truth that throws a kink into all scientific proclamations is funding. Scientists get their funding by getting their name in print. They get their name in print by making eye-popping claims, and unfortunately of recent, have been manipulating data, even falsifying research to get their eye-popping data, competing for those grant dollars. The IPCC, WWF, EPA, and others have all been exposed numerous times for publishing fraudulent research. If you can’t believe one thing they say, it casts doubt on everything else they claim. Add to this the liberal political agenda, where the ends justify the means attitude prevails over the truth, and the whole business becomes a scam, Progressive tools aimed at destroying the economy to usher in their socialist programs. How can you trust an industry that just 40 years ago was warning of the coming ice age, and now predicts an earth shattering global heat wave. Somebody doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about, and when you hear great ecological geniuses like Algore claiming the the worlds coastlines will be inundated by 20 higher sea levels coming in less than four years (words from his own mouth,) I know which side I’m going to lean toward.


March 11, 2012 10:49 pm

Nick – In both articles that you cite (the links didn’t show up until after my comment was posted), the scientists reach conclusions that are completely opposed to the position you are taking. John Turner, who led the study described in New Scientist, said that “[b]y the end of the century we expect one third of Antarctic sea ice to disappear.” Jiping Liu, who authored the study described in the National Geographic, said that “human-caused global warming is predicted to dominate the Antarctic climate and trigger faster melting of sea ice.” Both Turner and Liu attribute their observations from Antartica during the latter half of the 20th century to factors such as changes in the ozone layer and increased Antartctic snowfall, which they do not expect to continue over the long term. The National Geographic article also notes the “common misperception” that increases in Antarctica could cancel out “the strong decline in Arctic ice.”

As I said before, reasonable minds can disagree regarding predictions running into the future, which are based on modeling and inherently rely on assumptions that can prove erroneous. I personally have some skepticism about some of the more dire scenarios. I don’t believe it is appropriate, however, to leap to the conclusion that there is nothing to worry about based on references to ice growth cherry-picked from scientific publications which, as a whole, are fully in accord with the weight of expert opinion on this subject — which acknowledges that there is indeed a net loss of ice and increase in sea level across the globe.


March 11, 2012 12:39 am

Sue, For many years climate scientists have predicted that Antarctic ice will melt causing ocean to rise. The reverse had happened. So now they explain why their first prediction was wrong but tell us that they are sure their latest prediction is right. Maybe it is, we’ll see. But the track record is not good. They predicted that Himalayan glaciers would melt in 35 years……..until journalists (not scientists) pointed out how ridiculous that prediction was, with no scientific basis, and there was a red faced retraction. The point is that there is nowhere near the certainty, or the “settled science” that is often portrayed in the media. Politicians need to understand this before making life changing decisions.


March 10, 2012 7:49 pm

No one posting here will be living in 100 years to know for sure what the planet will be like. But anyone over 50 years old remembers what Winter and Spring used to be like. The seasons had different characteristics.

March used to be the windy month. Any month could be windy now. April was the start of tornado season. We’re seeing more severe and more numerous tornadoes as early as January now. Storms are more brief but dump more torrential rain.

The beaches used to be wide. It seemed like it took forever to walk from the old Hatteras lighthouse location to the water. In just a few short years, the ocean was almost lapping the lighthouse base. Eventually, it will have to be moved again.

You can see the beach erosion in the Nagshead area on a daily basis. Pay attention and marvel at how much sand washes back into the water each week. Barrier islands are supposed to roll over towards the mainland. They will never be able to stop that natural process. In fact, all the effort is hurting in the long run.

Don’t know what the answers are, but adaptability is key to survival, particularly when dealing with the elements.


March 10, 2012 12:51 am

I did provide the links. They are embedded in the blue text. Both sources clearly state that the Antarctic ice has experienced growth over the past several years despite predictions to the contrary. They attempt to explain why. Their conclusion……global warming is causing increased ice in the Antarctic because now it snows more there. So the Arctic ice is melting because of global warming and the Antarctic ice is increasing because of global warming! Incidentally, regarding reliance on NASA, this from the July 9, 1971 Washington Post….
“The world could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts. Dr. S. I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Columbia University.”
This has been proven to be complete nonsense because the modelling was flawed. Any reasonable person should look at the dire current predictions and question whether the modelling is also flawed, particularly where the livelihoods of many people South of Oregon Inlet are at stake.


March 9, 2012 10:23 pm


Both of your articles seem to make the case for global ice melting. The Antarctic ice growth is temporary, according to the articles you have cited. Not sure how you think scientists are uncertain about what is most likely to happen regarding climate change.


March 9, 2012 6:40 pm

If you’re so content with those findings, why don’t you provide links? New Scientist actually says that “Antarctica is losing about 200 gigatonnes of ice per year.” (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128235.300-antarctica-rising-as-ice-caps-melt.html.) As for National Geographic, I found numerous sources that agree that Antarctic ice is melting, with the closest thing to a contrary conclusion being a 2010 article describing a study by Jiping Liu based on 30 years of observations. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/08/100816-global-warming-antarctica-sea-ice-paradox-science-environment.) Even that article indicates that the older growth trend is reversing. Other sources (including the NASA article) agree that the current trend is toward melting and not growth.

This doesn’t even consider Greenland, which your comments haven’t addressed. The ice there is melting faster than in Antarctica (see the New Scientist article).


March 9, 2012 5:25 pm

Or how about New Scientist?


March 9, 2012 5:19 pm


March 9, 2012 2:29 pm

You don’t mention a specific source for your contention that the Antarctic ice mass is growing, but the studies that made this claim a few years ago have been completely debunked. NASA, for example, reports that “[g]ravity data collected from space using NASA’s Grace satellite show that Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002.” (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/20100108_Is_Antarctica_Melting.html) Actual measured rises in sea levels have also been carefully documented and verified. Reasonable minds can differ on issues such as longer-term predictions about the future continuation of these trends or the extent to which human activity is a contributing cause. But anyone who denies readily observable and objectively verifiable facts as to what is happening right now cannot claim to be “unbiased.”


March 9, 2012 12:00 pm

A couple of inconvenient truths. Arctic ice is largely floating – if it all melted it would make no difference to sea levels. 90% of the worlds ice is in the Antarctic – that ice mass is growing. Any suggestion that the science related to global warming and to sea levels is settled is simply false. There have been too many examples of bad science, inaccurate models and outright deception over the past several years. Alarmist predictions, many now a decade or more old, have been proven to be wildly exaggerated if not flat out wrong. There is even credible data to suggest that we may be entering a cooling period. The fact is that no-one knows with any certainty. There are too many agenda driven opinions disguised as fact on both sides of the debate – developers looking for profit from their investments and scientists looking for more grant money. We need cooler, unbiased heads to look at what has actually occurred and what is reasonable to expect. Not an easy task, but one which impact many lives and livelihoods.


March 9, 2012 8:01 am

kevin gray conner…….thank you


March 8, 2012 7:32 pm

While it is true that North Pole ice is frozen water with no land beneath, it is still melting at an alarming rate. It stands to reason that LAND topped with ice, such as in Greenland and the Himalayas, will also melt with time.
This melted ice (water) eventually makes its way to the ocean.
If you don’t believe that North Pole ice is melting even after looking at NASA photos, then read up on how the U.S., China, and Russia are all salivating over possible new merchant shipping routes over the North Pole regions.
Russia has already made a submerged vessel trip to the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole, hoping to solidify its claim to the area.
There will be opportunists at every turn. Hatteras Island and the rest of the Outer Banks will have to adapt to survive, but then, don’t we all?


March 8, 2012 3:28 pm


You are absolutely right about Stan Riggs having an “agenda”, but way off base concerning what that “agenda” is.

He is trying to figure out Mother Nature’s agenda, because ultimately, her’s is the only one that really matters.


March 8, 2012 9:32 am

If grammar and the reference to Fox News were the only two responses that ekim was able to discern from all of these comments, then I’d put reading comprehension well ahead of grammar on the list of skills that could use improvement.


March 8, 2012 7:58 am

riggs has an agenda against hatteras island…..

he called HWY 12 the road to nowhere. how did he get here if the road goes nowhere? if this is nowhere why does he or anyone else care about anything on this island? why do people want to come here if it is nowhere?

do we consider all the other roads leading into areas that are devastated by weather events ie. recent tornadoes etc. as roads to nowhere also?

republicans, democrats, tea party baggers, fox news , cnbc, etc…… take the extremists from each and you are all the SAME. thanks goodness there’s those who are able to hang in the middle and be independents. geez.


March 7, 2012 8:42 pm



Isabel brought overwash fans four feet deep across the beach road.

Irene hit the soundside, both Cat ones.

The question is, who will get hit next?


March 7, 2012 8:28 pm

Well, if you vote for a Republican supported by the Tea Party, the whole theory of climate change just goes away. How about that?

Happy Barracuda

March 7, 2012 6:03 pm

Zach, I said MOST of northern Dare County.

Yes, The residents of Bay Drive and other places were hit very hard from Hurricane Irene. And it was just barely a hurricane.

This is what the soundside residents from Ocracoke to Rodanthe deal with.


March 7, 2012 3:58 pm


Can you point out where the “liberals” were shown how
“miss guided” they are?



March 7, 2012 2:26 pm

better start buying up all those future ocean front lots in plymouth, nc.

And another thing

March 7, 2012 10:30 am

No where do I see in this article or the comments the major contributor to this problem: the avoidable, excessive cost of helping our citizens who live under challenging conditions.

Thanks to the environment worshippers the administrative burden in time and costs of doing anything that smacks of common sense is astronomical. Let’s return to a global understanding that people are more important than fish, birds and turtles. Tear down the artificial roadblocks!

No one wants to damage the environment but we all know the delays and costs are designed to discourage and punish rather than to help those who deserve to live as productive, independent law-abiding citizens.

Look up Agenda 21 and many of your questions about who, what, when and why will be answered. Study up because the test may cost us our private property, our livelihood and our well-being.


March 7, 2012 9:08 am


I’m thinking the people on Bay Drive would disagree with you on that.


March 7, 2012 8:39 am

You libral lemmings are hilarous, When someone shows you how miss guided you are , You start screaming abuot Fox news, What does fox news have to do with any of this? Then bust me on my grammer, (thats all you got) If the ocean is truly rising y’all better pack up an get the heck out of here! the sooner the better!


March 7, 2012 8:10 am

google earth pea island. look at the man made dike around the refuge. look at the direction the south end would direct a wind driven sound tide. look where the irene breach is.


March 6, 2012 9:13 pm

Most folk in Northern Dare County don’t have a clue to what is going on down here on Hatteras Island when there are storms.

Click above on HAPPY BARRACUDA for a slight feel of our situation……….

KDH Rezident Evil

March 6, 2012 4:54 pm

I have to say that the overwhelming response to the narrow, Faux-news fueled, delusional view of some posters has been…encouraging.

Another poster said it better, but take global warming out of the picture and you still have the incontrovertible proof that we are losing shoreline at a pace that gives pause. The argument that something has been in existence for “x” number of years, so it will continue to be here for “y” number of years in the future doesn’t hold up under even the most cursory scrutiny.


March 6, 2012 12:07 pm

Thanks for saving me time on a response to ekim’s drivel regarding the “experiment”. Now , where do we start with the “Islands have been here 500 years” part?


March 6, 2012 11:03 am

The problem with your “experiment” is that the ice isn’t starting out inside the glass. It now sits in frozen ice caps above sea level in places like Greenland and Antarctica. So if you want a more realistic experiment, try this one: fill a glass with water to the rim, then take an ice tray, melt it, and pour the contents into the glass. I’ll bet you it overflows.

Kevin Gray Conner

March 6, 2012 10:41 am

One of the great challenges of our age is that people are no longer allowed to think for themselves. Critical thinking is a relic of history, and as a result people feel, rather than think. If it “feels” right people will fall in line to champion some unfimiliar cause, because it has to be “right” if everyone “feels” the same way. People are afraid to offer differing views, because God forbid, it might make someone mad and we can’t have that, can we? Think for yourself, don’t follow everyone else over the cliff, like a pack of lemmings.


March 6, 2012 10:36 am

Ekin, As you might know the earth is not 6000 years old as some still hold to be true. The geologic time scale ranges in the billions of years, true there are old trees here, but you cannot stabilize a barrier island without having some sort of consequence on one side or the other. Maybe reading a liberal viewpoint might improve your grammar and spelling.


March 6, 2012 10:30 am


Got any idea how Riggs and Gore managed to put 10 million year old sharks teeth all over eastern NC without fox news spotting them?


george mendelson

March 6, 2012 10:11 am

Cate: Your tough hide and journalistic thoroughness are always good to behold and to be read. Taking on various wingnuts on an issue such as the causes of OBX flooding is an exercise in futility but writing intelligently for those who can read is worth the effort. Congrats.
By the way, I love the double pun:
“A follow-up draft was watered down significantly after intense lobbying by development interests.” Bravissimo.

Stewie Stewington

March 6, 2012 9:52 am

What is going to complicate matters most is that there will likely be little, if any, federal funding available for any future efforts to “solve” the N.C. 12 problem.

And that is as it should be. Local problems require local solutions.

Despite the ongoing federal budget fiasco everyone is crying for cutting federal spending – except, of course, when they want Uncle Sugar to give them money for their particular local needs/problems.

Whether you believe climate change (anthropogenic or otherwise) is happening or not the fact is that sea level is continuing a long term trend of rising.

Whether you believe that the sea level is rising or not there is still the added problem of the increased frequency of Atlantic storms. More Atlantic storms means an increased chance of the OBX being hit more frequently which will likely mean more washouts.

Ultimately, a paved road at ground level on Pea Island is just not going to be possible/affordable.


March 6, 2012 8:41 am

These Islands have been here for 500 years. I have a tree in my yard that is more than 200 years old. What would help these Islands is if the lieing liberals moved somewhere “safe”. Sorry James can’t accept the Nobel prize after its been given to frauds or your heroes like Obama an GORE. Hey what, do the ice experiment bozo. There aint enough ice on this planet to flood us out so quit scaring the children!


March 6, 2012 8:36 am


You don’t have to believe in climate change or global warming, but as Paul Krugman suggest, just think of a better cleaner world we would live in even if just for a second you did. And yes Stanley Riggs is correct in some of his “science” the barrier islands are not being allowed to “roll over” themselves, thus they are shrinking. Why do you think there are stumps on the beach in Rodanthe and Corolla? Find out who funds the denier scientist and you to will see the light.

Uncle Jack

March 6, 2012 8:20 am

It was 50 years ago this week that the Ash Wednesday Storm nearly opened an inlet at Soundside Road in Nags Head and punched a big hole in the Bypass. Who needs global warming?


March 6, 2012 7:56 am

PoP gives us a Fox News article as proof? Oh, no agenda there!


March 6, 2012 7:19 am

all coastal towns in the world be aware……..you are going down too


March 6, 2012 4:01 am


Got any names for the “experts” you would like to bring to town?


March 6, 2012 1:09 am

The first thing we need to do is ignore the global warming deniers. These wing nuts divert us from a serious discussion on how to live in a changing world. Politicians play to the worst of us, which is to say people inherently like to bury their head in the sand, so we accept the deniers because it is what we want to hear. The hard science is there from groups like NOAA, NASA and the UN. Real Science: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html

Read it, study, accept, and adapt.

It’s a free country, those who pride themselves on their own ignorance are free spew their hot air. The rest of us just need to tune out their noise, and plan for a world with slowly shrinking coastlines of the coming decades.

Kevin Gray Conner

March 5, 2012 10:33 pm

Stanley Riggs is just another component of the environmental left. He uses data that has been manipulated to promote fear and advance the environmental manifesto. The ultimate objective here is the permanent removal of human life from Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. These exaggerated claims have been exposed by others in the field of science as nothing more than hype, and I would welcome any opportunity to bring other experts to the islands to dispute these claims!


March 5, 2012 10:30 pm

ekim amazes us again with his skillful prose, opinions, and original scientific evidence. Nobel prize, anyone?


March 5, 2012 10:00 pm

@ekim…..fill a glass with ice to the top, when it melts does it fill to the top with water? NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!!!



March 5, 2012 9:55 pm

I went to the last Coastal Resources Commission meeting in Nags Head and heard the presentation on “sea level rise”. It was obviously watered down and the presenter deserved to be on “Dancing With The Stars” for his avoidance of the obvious. I agree with Sue. Look at the NASA photos, particularly over a period of several years. Sure, Fox will deny science, their story is from the “Pundit Prep” document the Republican party given them. I hope Rush Limbaugh enjoys swimming.


March 5, 2012 8:36 pm

Well, maybe Fox news will still be around in another 75 to 100 years to help the developers’ construction from falling into the ocean.
Anyone over age 40, with a grain of sense, or any age that can look at “old-timey” Hatteras pictures, knows that the beaches are disappearing. The islands in the Outer Banks are narrowing.
The planet is warming. Even an extra 1/2 degree can melt a lot of ice. Don’t just look at “old-timey” Hatteras pics. Look at NASA shots of the North Pole over the past twenty years.
Ever heard of the Max Planck Institute? Does Fox News ever pay attention to science? Oh right, never mind.


March 5, 2012 8:07 pm

Even if sea level isn’t rising, this place is toast.
Maintaining the bridges and roads is only a shot in the dark.


March 5, 2012 7:03 pm

@PEEPS sooooo well said I read the artical twice laughed harder the 2 time. KOZAK coverd every LIBRAL ENVIRO FREAK excuse give me a BREAK .When I was a kid we were all going to FREEZE TO DEATH, LOAD of pig feathers. ALL you global warming babies PLEASE PLEASE START WALKING TO WORK, IT will save a GLACIER. fill a glass with ice to the top, when it melts does it fill to the top with water? NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!!!


March 5, 2012 6:21 pm

blah blah blah blah

i don’t believe anything anyone says anymore.

Happy Barracuda

March 5, 2012 5:54 pm

“Dr.Stan Riggs has spent his professional life researching the natural dynamics of the N.C. coast.”

I have a PhD. in being a Surf Troll and have spent my life in, on, and under the waters of Hatteras Island. I’ll have to agree with Dr.Riggs, this island is sinking and the waters are rising. And we have been very lucky so far.

Anyone that has lived here year-round for more than 10 years will say the same thing.

Unless they are trying to sell something here.


March 5, 2012 5:38 pm

I visit the refuge once a week. More in the summer to get away from the tourists.
The best surf breaks are in in Pea Island Refuge.
The entire refuge can be ridden by bicycle at low tide, returning on the highway. It is a wonderful adventure.
Most people do not go there because it’s a 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk including a ditch jump,poison ivy avoidance, sticker vines,cactus pears,mosquitos and two dune lines.
And when the peas are in season they are a nice snack.
Visit and enjoy!


March 5, 2012 4:47 pm

build a freeway thru the refuge…lol Who goes there anymore anyways…


March 5, 2012 4:01 pm

Since forest fires were around long before man learned how to harness the power of fire, I’m thinking the Smokey the Bear program has been a total waste of money.

In fact, it was a communist/socialist based conspiracy/hoax foisted on a citizenry over educated by liberal, pinko professors whose only interest was in scaring the public into “uninformed opinions”.

Also too, their efforts were funded by the sale of cute, cuddly bears with a hat.


March 5, 2012 3:55 pm


I guess Prince of Peeps also didn’t notice that it was an “opinion” piece either.
Of course in the mind of the ultra-conservative, right-wing, tea-partier, fact is opinion and opinion is fact.


March 5, 2012 3:04 pm

You have to question anyone who provides links to fox news. Dont let the Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers cloud your judgement.


March 5, 2012 2:27 pm

Peeps is delusional.
Common sense he has not.

R Carrway

March 5, 2012 2:12 pm

One of the major points that the author was conveying is that area in NC is have hard times. The ocean is rising, regardless of what is making it happen. It saddens me to hear about an area that I spent a week ever summer when i was a child. As an adult, I have been to that area often. I hate to see this place that I love, disappear. I am interested in learning what the people who do not believe in global warming, explain what is causing the weather to be changing significantly. It is a fact that unusual things are happening. Example, over 100 tornadoes in the mid west, and having them on a daily basis for over a week.


March 5, 2012 1:43 pm

Simple question for you, P of P: what should be done with public funds to maintain NC 12 or an alternative access to Hatteras? And what might be an upper limit to such expenditures, in your opinion?


March 5, 2012 1:37 pm

When I was younger all growing up, I have had 3 dreams of going over the bridge in panic of the huge tidal wave. It’s funny because a few other people I know have had similiar dreams. I believe it is coming.

Martin Booth

March 5, 2012 1:01 pm

The article was well written and researched but there is one misstatement which needs correction. It is NOT Arctic ice melting that causes sea level rise….Arctic ice is sea ice for the most part. The major sea level rise will come from the melting of the land based Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Reasonable estimates are that the complete melting of these ice sheets would cause approximately a forty foot rise in sea levels.

KDH gal

March 5, 2012 12:30 pm

Thank you for the excellent article.
It seems profoundly sad that scientifically fact based reports are watered down due to pressure from developers who have only added to the problems over the years.

Salvo Jimmy

March 5, 2012 10:05 am

Interesting that Riggs seems to attribute the rise only to warming, I guess he does not “know what the science is” of land sinking in the area attributing more to the “rise”, at least per this article


Prince of Peeps

March 5, 2012 1:16 am

What a steaming pile! What else can you say? In the face of all the evidence that has debunked, not only the phoney, fraudulent “science” of global warming (especially man-made global warming,) but also those charlatans who have provided inaccurate and tainted evidence and manipulated “scientific” models conspiring to perpetrate their global warming hoax. This article uses exaggerated “facts” to scare people into uninformed reactions. (Some scientists say ocean rise may be no more than 2.5″. You never hear that from the scaremongers.)

The article begins with all this hype and speculation about how the oceans are rising, posing a threat to our beaches, then admits that the Hurricane Irene breach had absolutely nothing to do with rising oceans or melting polar caps. It was caused by an unusually extended period of west winds that blew the sound waters up. The inlet blew out, not in. It was not caused by the rising ocean. It was not caused by global warming.

Folks, this global warming hoax, along with the environmentalist movement, is nothing more than a lift-wing agenda designed to force us into extravagant, budget-busting expenditures through overzealous government regulation. The goal is to bankrupt our nation, turning us into another third world country that is easier to control and manipulate. The REAL problem is too many of our politicians and bureaucrats are buying into this garbage.

The Progressives’ view of the world is one giant pasture full of sheep, with them as the shepherd dogs barking and nipping at everyone’s heels, telling us all what to do. That’s anathema to the American free spirit. Let your voice be heard that you’re not going to put up with it.

Go read this story:

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